EXCERPTS FROM FRANK O. LAMBERT’S RAW ONIONS COLUMN: “MORE TIMES IN COURT THAN AL CAPONE!” MARINA GAZETTE, 6 AUGUST 2012
This is an update on the case of Eva Ruiz Gomez, a devoted mother and wife, with no prior criminal record, who may be looking at time in prison and her son taken from her. As Eva’s case nears the two-year mark, her friends, family and community supporters continue to have more and more questions and concerns.
Besides our obvious concern for Eva and her family, we wonder what is this costing Monterey County to continue this unjustifiable prosecution? Eva has appeared in criminal court 60 times already, with no end in sight. She’s appeared in the Family Law Court an equal number of times. What’s going on? Why does the District Attorney refuse to dismiss this case? Despite conflicting court orders, the charges against Eva changing numerous times, growing evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct, as well as countless violations of Eva’s civil rights and right to due process, this travesty continues.
This is Eva’s story in a nutshell, according to court documents and first-hand accounts. Fourteen years ago, Eva had a child with a man who proved increasingly abusive. She was granted full custody of her son by the court; he was given visitation rights. Eva wanted to relocate to Mexico, which she did in 2003, starting up a bed & breakfast business. She had court approval to do so. She said she provided the father her contact phone number and address in Mexico; he said she didn’t. She maintains he was never interested in the boy until child support, which he hadn’t paid, became an issue.
The father, Ramon Munoz, with advice and assistance from Monterey County DA’s investigator Mr. Infante, filed a motion to change custody and visitation in 2004, but didn’t serve Eva with papers, so she wasn’t at the hearing (or even aware it was happening because she was in Mexico). A different judge from the ones at prior hearings granted the father joint custody plus a visitation schedule in Monterey County. Why didn’t the new judge look at the court records and see that Eva had been given permission to go to Mexico and had full legal and physical custody?
In 2009, Eva and her family returned to Monterey County, and her son was enrolled in Carmel Middle School. On September 28, 2010, Infante went to the school and, using the bogus custody order from 2004, and without notifying Eva, took the child and handed him over to Mr. Munoz in Salinas. Infante left his business card with the school secretary who immediately contacted Eva to let her know her son had been taken. When Eva called Infante, he told her to meet him in a portable building behind the courthouse. She arrived as soon as possible with her husband Mailo and their baby, looking for her son, but instead she was handcuffed, arrested and taken away, leaving her husband holding the baby.
The great irony is that Eva’s lawyer has uncovered evidence revealing that the DA’s office committed so many legal violations in the lead-up and in the process of snatching Eva’s son and arresting Eva that DA investigator Infante appears to be the one guilty of child abduction—the crime they originally charged Eva with. This outrageous conduct on the part of the prosecutor’s office requires dismissal of this bogus case on the grounds of due process violation.
When the “Pitchess Motion” became public, we read it and were certainly appalled at the chain of events leading from the original court orders on child custody and visitation rights and permission from the court for Eva to move to Mexico. You’re thinking: “What is a Pitchess Motion?” (We asked the same question.) It’s derives from the California Supreme Court’s landmark 1974 decision in PITCHESS V. SUPERIOR COURT, that a defendant is entitled to discovery of “all potentially relevant documents” or information in the personnel record of a peace officer accused of misconduct against the defendant on a showing of “good cause.”
Besides the Pitchess Motion, Eva’s lawyer twice filed a Request for Discovery to get, among other things, something as basic as a look at the arrest warrant. What we saw in court was Eva’s lawyer asking in every way possible for the arrest warrant and police records of the arrest so he can effectively defend his client. The District Attorney refuses, and the judge won’t make him. Why not? And it’s not just the arrest warrant, but also where’s the protective custody warrant and the protective custody order and the Order to Show Cause, giving Eva her rightful opportunity to contest? All of those are required by law before an official of the criminal justice system goes into a school and takes a child away from the parent who has custody.
Can this really happen in Carmel, CA? Well, it did on September 28, 2010, when Mr. Infante took Eva’s son and for 11 days, until the Family Court gave her son back to her, she had no knowledge of his whereabouts. Doesn’t that sound like child abduction? It does to us.
Also Mr. Infante appears to have possibly perjured himself, concerning the whereabouts of Eva while she was living and working in Mexico. According to documents in the case, Investigator Infante, at the February 4, 2011 preliminary hearing, under penalty of perjury, told Deputy District Attorney Patterson that Munoz was deprived of visitation because he had no knowledge of his son’s location over the Christmas holidays in 2005 or for the years 2006-2009. But on September 28, 2010, Investigator Infante had stated, under penalty of perjury, that: “In January of 2008, via the internet, I located Eva Ruiz Gomez in San Miguel de Allende, running a Bed and Breakfast.” (He stated the address and phone number of the B&B in Mexico).
But even earlier than that, in a 2005 declaration to the court, Munoz stated that Eva was making $4600/month at her B&B in Mexico—information he said was given to him by the DA investigator! Did Infante and Munoz know where she was or not? And was Munoz using that information to get out of paying child support?
Another peculiar item to this case, which we’ll quote from the Pitchess Motion: “Investigator Infante leaves the court with the false and misleading impression that he diligently established that the child had ‘last attended’ the Captain Cooper Elementary School in Big Sur, California in ‘June of 2004.’ The child never attended the Captain Cooper Elementary School and actually was resident in and attending an elementary school in Mexico during 2004 from which he graduated in July 2004.”
Why is this important? Because Infante was trying to establish that Eva and her family were in Monterey County in 2004, when they were not—they were in Mexico. And because in the summer of 2004 Mr. Munoz went to Family Court, asking for a change in custody and visitation. He gave the court the impression he’d served Eva notice to appear in court when he had not, and he did not disclose that Eva was in Mexico with permission of the court.
That’s when Munoz, in an incredibly brief hearing, got a court order giving him joint custody and visitations with the exchanges to take place at the Seaside Police Department, where his brother-in-law worked. Also the court order stated that neither party was to remove the child from Monterey County for more than three days without the written consent of the other or an order from the court. Despite the fact that Munoz had a criminal record and was still on probation, the judge granted Munoz everything he asked for, no questions asked and without Eva present. That 2004 court order is most likely the basis for the illusive arrest warrant, thus making the warrant invalid, because the court order was invalid, because Eva was never properly served notice to go to court and the important legal procedures necessary for changing custody status were not followed.
And what happened next? In September of 2004, Munoz and Infante opened up a child abduction case against Eva, based on her not showing up with her son for the “scheduled” visitation exchanges at the Seaside Police Department. Does that sound like a set-up? It does to us. Does Eva’s case need to move outside of Monterey County so she can get a fair trial? It appears to us that’s exactly what’s needed.
One last thing: according to what we understand, apparently Eva was originally investigated and arrested under the bogus 2004 court order and charged with felony child abduction. But the charges changed several times, probably because the defective service made the 2004 order invalid, and so now the charge, based on the previous court orders, is deprivation of custody and visitation. That deprivation charge is not usually a felony crime but, for some reason, in Eva’s case it is. What’s really going on? That’s what we want to know.
Disclaimer: Any mistakes in this website are ours. Nobody asked us to get involved in Eva’s case. We’re doing it because we care about this innocent young woman and her family. Thanks for reading this, and please consider making a donation to Eva’s legal defense fund, and please share this website address with family and friends. Our hope is that more people will come to her defense and, with enough public support, the District Attorney will dismiss the charges and clear Eva’s name so she can get on with her life. Thanks!